Do you study the Japanese language? If so, why? Personally, I take lessons because even though I’m half Japanese, I learned only English during my childhood. I’m trying to make up for lost time, I suppose.
The Japan Foundation invited me to observe their Elementary Japanese class held at The Nippon Club. I attended two sessions, one in February and one in March. I discovered that the reasons people study Japanese are as varied as the people themselves.
Daniel initially studied Chinese, but he thought that it was too difficult. (Not that Japanese is easy, of course.)
Stuart is self-taught and can read and write the basics, but he wanted to learn in a more formal setting so he can polish his pronunciation and learn more kanji.
Nancy became interested in Japanese culture in high school, where she had an international group of friends.
Hope taught English in Japan for a year, and although she picked up the language, she wants to learn proper grammar.
The Elementary class that I observed was taught by Yoko Sakurai, who has been a lecturer at Fashion Institute of Technology, Pace University, and LaGuardia Community College since 2007. Sakurai Sensei’s class had only nine registered students, so there was plenty of time for individual attention.
Each student had a basic knowledge of Japanese before registering for the class, making the class seem more advanced than I expected. I observed the fifth class of the course, and the students were already reading and writing kanji and had a handle on that week’s new topic, which centered on vocabulary used during a business trip.
When I returned a month later, the students had steadily added to their vocabulary and kanji. Sakurai Sensei, who speaks primarily in Japanese during the class, covers a lot of ground in 90 minutes. She uses PowerPoint, handouts, a textbook that was created by the Japan Foundation, and divides the class up into small groups to have conversations.
It was the next-to-the-last class of the course, and the students were eager to continue their studies and hoping their schedules allowed them to take the next course, which begins on Monday, April 22. If you’re interested in studying Japanese with Japan Foundation, you have until Wednesday, April 17 to register.